There is a framework for understanding grief which is based on the tasks of grieving. Still others refer to ‘grief work.’ (I love how this article deadpans, “The concept of tasks implies that effort will be required.”) For compulsive do-ers like me, a to-do list for grief is a welcome thing. These tasks are:
accepting the reality of the loss
working through the pain
adjusting to the new environment, and
emotionally relocating the loved one.
I often feel like I’m doing all four of these at once, and I imagine that’s sort of how it should be. The fourth one — emotional relocation — is one I would love to be able to “do”. I would love to understand how I can connect with my Mom’s memory and spirit. I desperately want to understand what place she can still have in my life now that she has passed away. Sometimes I feel I can connect to her when I go to the Montrose Bird Sanctuary. Mom took a great interest in every birdie that crossed her path. But the loss is still so fresh and painful that even this kind of connection seems pale and insufficient. My conscious self sometimes scoffs at my heart’s effort to find her. You think you can find her someplace? News flash — she’s gone.
In the past few days, I have experienced intense memories of Mom which felt like memories of another planet, another universe, another dimension in time. I was sitting at Moody’s Pub, drinking a little too much sangria, talking about how Sheridan Road turns into a wind tunnel on brutal winter days. And suddenly – BANG. I remembered the last time Mom visited us here. I trying to put Mom on an express bus downtown so she could catch her plane. The wind and rain were brutal — so brutal, in fact, that there was a Red Line derailment that day. The wind was hitting our faces and we were worried and stressed about Mom catching her plane. We had to shout over the wind like a scene from The Perfect Storm. I remembered Mom’s face, reddened by the cold and wind. I remember how she looked when we finally decided to call a cab. I imagined her, riding down Lake Shore Drive, safe and dry, watching the waves surge.
It hit me like a ton of bricks, the awful rift between her presence and her absence. Like a wrinkle in time. Or, more accurately, like someone took time and tore it into two pieces. That’s part of the ‘new environment’ I’m adjusting to.